Four awards doled out at annual event

Tuesday, October 17, 2023
Crowd shot from Evening of Distinction

The University of New Hampshire held its annual Evening of Distinction celebration Oct. 12, honoring service and philanthropy by handing out four awards.

Morgan ’84 and Tara Rutman received the Hubbard Award for Service to Philanthropy, Margaret (Peggy) Ann Shea ’58, ’61G, ’18H was awarded the Charles Holmes Pettee Medal, Nancy Kinner ’80G, ’83G received the Profile of Service Award and Vivian Pham ’14 received the Outstanding Recent Graduate Award.

Hubbard Award for Service to Philanthropy – Morgan ’84 and Tara Rutman

Morgan and Tara Rutman
morgan and tara rutman. (jeremy gasowski photo)

The Hubbard Award was established in 2001 to honor Oliver, Austin and Leslie Hubbard and recognizes "outstanding individuals whose philanthropic leadership has significantly strengthened the state of New Hampshire, its communities and the university." Previous Hubbard Award winners include Peter T. Paul '67, Marcy Peterson Carsey '66 and Dana Hamel '88P.

Morgan and Tara Rutman have made giving back to the university — and the state of New Hampshire — a foundational element of their lives. 

UNH was a dominant part of Morgan’s life. His family moved to Durham in 1967, when his father joined the history department here. Despite his affinity for UNH, Morgan was convinced he had to leave Durham for college, but after a semester at another institution, he returned home to UNH, where he received his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1984. He next set off for Wall Street, which marked the start of Morgan’s long, successful career in finance. That’s also where he and Tara met — a partnership that has been going strong now for 37 years. 

Morgan is a current member of the USNH board of trustees and served for two separate 10-year terms on the UNH Foundation board, including a stint as chairman. Morgan’s first term on the UNH Foundation board began in 1999. 

Together, Morgan and Tara have generously supported a number of key initiatives and programs, including the Rutman Leadership Fellows program, the Rutman/ Och Advancing Women’s Leadership Initiative Fund, the Shoals Marine Laboratory and the Rutman Distinguished Lecture Series on the American Presidency, which was established in honor of Morgan’s parents.

Their philanthropy extends across the state. Tara is a board member for The Music Hall in Portsmouth, and together, the Rutmans support a number of organizations, including Crossroads House, Gather, Families First and many more. Philanthropy is a vital aspect of their partnership, and they work together to support the causes and institutions they care about most. As Morgan says, “The things we show the most love to are the things we can both feel good about.” 

Morgan has said, “We’re all shaped in some way by our parents and our young lives.” Morgan and Tara’s commitment to the university and to the state exemplify that attitude.

Charles Holmes Pettee Medal – Margaret (Peggy) Ann Shea ’58, ’61G, ’18H

Peggy Ann Shea
peggy ann shea.

The Pettee Medal, established in 1940, recognizes "individuals who exhibit the rare devotion to service" that Pettee was known for and is awarded to "a resident or former resident of the state in recognition of outstanding accomplishment or distinguished service in any form to the state, the nation, or the world."

Peggy Ann Shea’s decades-long scientific career researching the interplay between cosmic rays, solar particles and Earth’s magnetic field has helped set standards used by NASA and the FAA in aviation and space exploration. And her investigations into contemporary and historic solar phenomena and cosmic ray events have yielded valuable insights that are still being explored today. 

Shea credits being “in the right place at the right time” for her success. She began her undergraduate studies in 1954. On the first day of an engineering drawing course, Shea remembers the instructor announcing, “Well fellas, we’ve got two girls in here. How fast can we get ‘em out?” 

Luckily, they did not succeed. So Shea was indeed in the right place at the right time in the spring of 1956, when she took a summer job as a data entry clerk for Dr. John Lockwood. The pay wasn’t much — just 90 cents an hour — but the experience of monitoring and recording cosmic ray data from a neutron monitor on Mount Washington gave Shea the foundation for her future research endeavors. And when Soviet satellite Sputnik was launched the following year, she knew for sure that the time was right for a career in physics. 

That career has taken her to more than 60 countries around the globe. Her scientific pursuits are as wide-ranging as her travels. A job at the University of Hawaii in Oahu in 1962 ignited an interest in volcanology, and she’s witnessed and photographed a number of volcanic eruptions. While at a conference in Australia in 1979, a snorkeling outing at the Great Barrier Reef inspired Shea to become a certified SCUBA diver. Shea’s curiosity about the world and its workings is boundless. 

Shea has authored or co-authored more than 400 scientific papers and has been a longtime editor for the journal Advances in Space Research. She has received several awards from the U.S. Air Force for her work and has been honored by the Royal Astronomical Society, the International Academy of Astronautics and many others. When the American Geophysical Union presented Shea with the group’s prestigious Waldo E. Smith medal in 1998, they called her a “spark plug on both the national and international scenes” and “a human dynamo.” 

She’s done all this with her husband, Don Smart, by her side. Cosmic ray research brought them together in the 1960s — plenty of their early dates revolved around getting time to use computers at MIT to analyze data. They published their first paper together in 1965 and have another forthcoming. It’s a partnership that Shea is immensely proud of. 

She is fond of saying that science is not limited by national borders — something that is doubly true for space science. Her persistent curiosity, dedication to inquiry and spirit of collaboration have changed the field of space science and beyond.

Profile of Service Award – Nancy Kinner ’80G, ’83G

Nancy Kinner
Nancy kinner. (jeremy gasowski photo)

The Profile of Service Award is conferred upon an individual who may or may not be an alumnus/a, for outstanding performance on behalf of the alumni association or the university.

“Going above and beyond” is one of Dr. Nancy Kinner’s defining characteristics — second only, perhaps, to her signature red hat, which makes her instantly recognizable anywhere on campus.  

Kinner’s busy schedule means there are plenty of chances to catch sight of her. She continues to serve as co-director of the Coastal Response Research Center, a partnership between UNH and NOAA, and director for the Center for Spills in the Environment since 2004. And she played a critical role in the launch of the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, where she has served as associate director for research since 2019.  

Kinner first came to New Hampshire in 1975 to spend a summer studying at the Shoals Marine Laboratory with John Kingsbury. Those weeks on Appledore and aboard the R/V Westward cemented her career path: She would devote herself to researching and devising practical solutions to pressing coastal problems, such as oil spills, natural disaster recovery and renewable fuels. The ocean is in her blood, and her fascination and dedication hasn’t wavered since she first set out on her parents’ sailboat in Great South Bay in Long Island as a child.  

Kinner’s scholarship and service in the fields of civil and environmental engineering and marine science have made impacts at the state, regional, national and international levels. She has testified before Congress three times and was a leading voice in the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Because of her work on the ERMA platform, an online mapping tool that helps stakeholders respond quickly to environmental disasters, her colleague Scott Lundgren, of the National Ocean Service’s Office of Response and Restoration, has said, “it’s not a stretch to say that a large portion of oil spill research in this country has been discussed, coordinated, or touched somehow by Nancy and UNH.”  

Though she has retired from teaching in the classroom, she continues to work with and advise graduate students and takes an active role in mentoring future generations of marine scientists and ocean engineers.

Her dedication extends outside her academic disciplines, as well. She was, essentially, an inspirational and enthusiastic ambassador for UNH. She was there to welcome students to their first year on campus at the annual Cat Pack Kick-Off Rally and was there at commencement as chief faculty marshal for 15 years, to usher them into their future with her memorable rendition of “Happy Trails.” Being present for the beginning and conclusion of so many Wildcats’ academic careers was vital — as Kinner says, “It’s important to have a sense of community and a sense of giving back.

Outstanding Recent Graduate Award – Vivian Pham ’14

Vivian Pham
vivian pham.

The Outstanding Recent Graduate Award recognizes a graduate from the past 10 years who embodies the service mission of the university and/or demonstrates outstanding accomplishment, commitment and initiative in a professional, business or public service area.

Pham has distinguished herself within all three areas listed above. In September 2019, she joined the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission as the agency’s first chief of staff. The MRC has more than 800 employees and supports more than 42,000 people with disabilities in Massachusetts. After only a few months on the job, the COVID pandemic began, and Pham led the agency’s response. There were many challenges, from on-the-ground issues like keeping staff and clients safe to organizational changes, like navigating the new world of hybrid work. But Pham met those challenges with curiosity, compassion and dedication — and helped transform the way MRC does its work.  

Those transformations include everything from monitoring cross-agency projects, leading initiatives to foster diversity, equity and inclusion, navigating legislative relations and advising the MRC’s commissioner on strategy and operations. It’s a wide-ranging set of duties, but all of Pham’s efforts are grounded in making positive impacts in people’s lives. As a result, she’s been recognized as one of Boston’s 15 most influential Asian-American & Pacific Islanders Emerging Community Leaders and was part of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 class of Outstanding Young Leaders. 

Most recently, Pham has taken the next major step in her career and is currently a Commonwealth Bradford Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, where she is pursuing her master’s degree in public administration.   

Pham’s commitment to leadership and public service has been apparent ever since she was a student at UNH, where she was involved with the Waysmeet Food Pantry for four years and was a Governor John G. Winant Public Service Fellow during her senior year. As a TRIO scholar and a member of Alpha Phi Omega, the community service fraternity, Pham found a community at UNH. And, because of that, she chose to devote herself to public service. 

Growing up, Pham says she didn’t see a lot of people who look like her in government or leadership roles. But as she saw professors, mentors and peers support her goals and invest in her future, her life’s trajectory changed. She now strives to do the same for others. Pham is a frequent guest on TRIO panels and UNH networking events. In her own words, “I feel responsible and obligated to make sure students know what’s possible.”